Week in Preface: The Year of Awesome

Most people measure the year from January 1st to December 31st, going day by day. Much like a daily chronicle, or an almanac, the year is discussed in a dissected, almost quantitative fashion. (Others work from July 1st to June 30th, but that’s largely financial and especially quantitative.) I’m not a person who thinks especially quantitatively, who thinks about the bottom line – I think thematically, over large swaths of time, and of moments scattered through the year, often a tiny bit fuzzy with dates and slightly fuzzier with details. (Further, I remember – and sometimes daydream about the strangest parts of things; for example, when I think “Shea Stadium,” I think of the walk towards it, going through the parking lot, past the bleachers (which for some reason I remember in its 2007-08 iteration, with a special temporary entrance as Citi Field was looming) and along the contour of the ballpark; specifically, the turn one made heading towards Gate C, lurching past Gates A and B, past the production trucks and the plastic coverings for the myriad wires and cords, past the Press Gate I had so rarely ever entered or exited.) I try my best to go linearly (and I’ll try to go linearly here), but things often get muddled in conversation.

When I think of 2010, I think of it in two parts: before graduating high school and after it. That primary partition largely makes 2010, in my mind, begin back on December 15th, 2009, and end just a few days into the future, on December 31st, 2010. That 16-day extension is, largely, nothing more than that, but for a while (possibly through now), it was the Best Week Ever. For it was on the 15th I knew where I was invariably headed come August of this year.

Getting into the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter was, with conviction, a memory I’ll have for a while. I had gotten into college before this acceptance iteration, to Drexel University, a school that I knew next to nothing about, save for the fact that it was in Philadelphia. I had applied largely due to a mailing (one of what had to be hundreds, if not thousands, sent to me by colleges over the past few years – inexplicably, a couple have come in since I’ve matriculated in college) for a “VIP Application,” which meant, simply, that I didn’t pay anything to apply, and I didn’t have to write an essay – in other words, means for them to increase their number of applicants, and therefore increase their rate of selectivity (in turn increasing their ratings in the stupidly-important US News and World Report rankings). A few weeks after I sent it in, in early October (?), I got in return a nice envelope, which held a folder (that had a really cool dragon on it, I might add) that had news and information regarding my acceptance. It really wasn’t much to me, though – it meant that I was going somewhere the next four years, even if I had no realistic means to pay whatever the tuition is at Drexel University.

Applications to University at Albany and University of Delaware (another one I had never been to, what with my few memories of Delaware involving driving through it) were sent in, but that was after the big one: Macaulay. It’s not a big program nor is it a well-known program (outside of New York City public schools), but it was the one I wanted into – it was an honors program, in the greatest city in the world, where they threw money and free crap at you. I applied Early Decision (and why not – it was an application to my first choice school, and one that would pay for my tuition and more, at that), sending it in about two or three days before the November 1st deadline, and waited.

Waited after MHC at Hunter sent an e-mail promising “big news on December 15th” – yeah, as if I were to forget. Waited after Macaulay sent an e-mail wishing me a happy holidays – yeah, holidays that will be flagged with either disappointment and wallowing in an application to Princeton that I knew (and still know) would invariably go, both literally and figuratively, south, or with joy and pride at getting to where I wanted to be. And on December 15th – the day of reckoning, or at least the day of notification – I waited. Waited for a letter, for an e-mail, for something. Eventually, I partook in a chat with a wonderfully pleasant young man whose name I can’t remember for a bit of advice on how to find out what the hell was going on.

And with his idea of calling the college in mind, I did. They (they being the Honors College on the whole – I’m pretty sure it was Jonathan Schoenwald on the other line, but it’s not certain) said they sent out an e-mail of notification hours ago. I said I didn’t receive it. And then they (he) asked if I wanted to find out how I did, I sheepishly said yes. Then there was a pause. Then, “Daniel, you’re going to Hunter next year.” And after that, save for my celebration consisting largely of the same celebration I had for getting Final Jeopardy! right when the contestants didn’t (one for the calendar, we call it) that I had co-opted from Taylor Twellman, was kind of a blur. A blur of congratulations on the phone and on Facebook (mostly on Facebook), one that continued into the next day where I celebrated the news once more, along with when I got the latest e-newsletter from mental_floss.

Now, at that point (and through about June), the _floss had a feature in each newsletter called “Beat our Facts” – basically, they had a theme, you came up with a cool fact to beat theirs. The previous newsletter presented the theme of “State Facts” – and my fact ended up beating theirs. (For the record, it was “Only two states have an official donut: Louisiana (the beignet) and Massachusetts (the Boston Kreme).”) My prize was just a t-shirt (specifically, this one) but considering it was my second t-shirt I had earned that year, it was pretty cool, and hey, it was coming off getting into a free college.

The good vibes continued onto the next day, at the Armstrong House holiday party – a party where, I had found out the Saturday prior, the powers that be were to award me with the award they gave out to the best volunteer, in their opinion. Now, this was largely due to the fact that I was leaving at some point the next year (more on that later), but was still pretty cool. It came with a couple of unexpected gifts: first, a copy of the latest Armstrong biography, Pops, which was given to every volunteer; and a lifetime membership to the museum (which I’ve used probably twice in the past year).

After that, though, for the next few months, it was just waiting. Waiting until I found out where everyone else was going to college (though I knew about a few people already who got into Ivy League schools before I found out about myself), waiting for AP exam season (where, memorably, one of my AP Euro classmates simply walked out before the test was administered), waiting for the end of the spring term at Queens College (which, further, meant the end to the dreaded Humanities Seminar, at least in its grueling form), waiting to graduate. During that time, of course, there was some good stuff – there was the cocktail party Macaulay held at the Museum of Natural History, under the blue whale (the same night I began my love affair with Shake Shack), there were the always-wonderful induction ceremonies for my school’s math and science honor societies (I always loved the math honor society, Mu Alpha Theta’s induction ceremony, because it was right after school and was always laid-back; and I loved the science honor society’s induction ceremony this year because I had a poncho on), there was my last day at the Armstrong House (which in the end wasn’t my last day at the Armstrong House) and the Armstrong Archives (which ended with pizza from Gino’s with Ricky Riccardi and Richard Fischer and was, in fact, my last day at the Armstrong Archives) there were the two non-consecutive snow days, there were the Olympics. Probably the two coolest things were playing Robin in my friends’ Batman parody movie (which added “the Whistler” to the canon of Batman supervillains) and beginning my friendship with Kelly (which began largely due to the fact that I got a locker on the fourth floor, with the juniors, rather with my fellow seniors on the third), in which we met up to go to the Historical Society and the Museum of Arts and Design, a day that was aptly April Fool’s Day and a day in which I, in an effort to make use of my title as “museum volunteer,” got in free to both institutions.

I’m going to make my partition on June 4th (in spite of it not being the day of graduation), for two reasons: first, because by this point I was basically home free from high school, and second, because that was the day I auditioned for Millionaire. The day prior, I had turned 18 and along with the perquisites generally associated with the age (including the ability to vote, which I have since exercised, and the ability to legally purchase cigarettes, lottery tickets, and stuff in infomercials, which I have not since exercised), I also signed up for two things: first, the 4th (and final) Sports Spelling Bee at the ESPNZone in Times Square, an event that I got to about 15 minutes late, leaving me down in the dumps in one of my least favorite places in the world; and second, the June 4th audition for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, in one of my most favorite places in the world: the Upper West Side, the Land of Lincoln (Center), the home to the Museum of Natural History, the Historical Society, and my now-beloved Shake Shack.

The audition took place in the ABC cafeteria (or is it a commissary?) consisted of two parts: the multiple choice portion, a series of about 30 questions from the show that was an absolute breeze, and an interview portion, in which it was my job to be bubbly, or at least somewhat interesting, while talking with producers both on-camera and off-. In the time between those two parts, I signed off on waivers (including one part that included the provision that our likeness could be use “in any form, in perpetuity, across the universe,” leading to a geek-out session with another audition-er wondering if that would qualify in the multiverse), got my picture taken, and talked to a bubbly, or at least somewhat interesting (not to mention gorgeous) female fellow audition-er about the answers we were unsure about on the test (I believe her name was Anna – pronounced with an open back unrounded vowel for the first syllable – jeez, should’ve gotten her full name).

Most of the rest of the year has already been documented (aside from when I cleaned up at Baccalaureate, taking what I recall was 17 different awards – generally medals and certificates instead of plaques, meaning that I was very good, but not the best, at a bunch of things, including art(!), but not including math; and the great-but-terribly-short “Play Me, I’m Yours” program, which placed pianos across town): the awesome Key to the City journey (speaking of which, when I was hanging out with my friend Kim, who was one of the co-directors of the Batman movie we did, I mentioned it and she kind of freaked out, thinking that I got an actual Key to the City bestowed to me by the mayor); finding out how great Korean fried chicken is; my strange-but-great trip to Philadelphia (in which I found out that I could, in fact, navigate on my own in a city I’m not from); the myriad trips to Coney Island for baseball; the Vendys (probably one of the top 5 greatest days of my life); and my appearance on Millionaire (ditto); not to mention beginning my college studies (so far it’s been going down Peter Venkman-style). Simply put, I’ve had a truly blessed year, the year of my life – the Year of Awesome – and Reader, I’m glad you’ve been here for it.

And on that long, splendiferous note, here’s this week’s line-up of posts:

  • Music Monday Top 5: Later tonight, my top 5 favorite songs, and top 5 favorite albums, of 2010.
  • Tuesday Stuff I Dislike: The 5 least favorite parts of 2010 (basically, a round-up of ‘world suck,’ as John and Hank Green would put it)
  • Wednesday Top 5: My top 5 favorite people of 2010 (my persons of the year list)
  • Thursday Moment of Vanity: Because writing up 5 bits of trivia about this year would be daunting and, frankly, a little silly, something a bit less daunting and a lot more silly: my 5 favorite posts on this blog in the past year.
  • Sunday Night Stuff I Like: My 5 favorite parts of 2010, worldwide.
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